Time to pay attention to climate change

drought in Dabel village, Marsabit County.

A man shows carcasses of his cows that died due to drought in Dabel village, Marsabit County. Kenya is more vulnerable to climate change since the key drivers of the economy are climate-sensitive.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Elections are finally over and Kenyans are now awaiting the fulfilment of promises made by politicians during the campaign period. Most candidates, especially those who vied for the presidency, rallied for the revival of the economy, job creation, boosting food production, better education, quality healthcare and gender equality as top issues they would tackle if elected. However, little or no attention was given to the issue of climate change.

Climate change is now the elephant in the room which is affecting ecosystems, water resources, food, health, coastal zones, industrial activities, and impeding sustainable growth globally. Kenya is more vulnerable to climate change since the key drivers of the economy — agriculture, livestock, tourism, forestry, and fisheries — are climate-sensitive and the existing conditions such as unemployment, abject poverty, recurrent droughts, inequitable distribution of resources, overdependence on rain-fed agriculture and the country’s low adaptive capacity to climate change further exacerbates an already dire situation.

Current projections suggest that temperatures will rise by 2.5 degrees Centigrade between 2000 and 2050, while rainfall will become intense and less predictable particularly in arid regions. Other parts of the country such as the Rift Valley are also vulnerable to climate change due to increasing extreme events (droughts and floods, combined with landslides) while glacier melt will further reduce future water availability while the coastal region will suffer from rising sea levels associated with floods and saltwater intrusion.

The mainstay sectors of the Kenyan economy (agriculture and tourism), are both highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. For instance, a drought lasting from 2008 to 2011 caused an estimated 12.1 billion dollars in damage while food insecurity caused by droughts from 2014 to 2022 affected approximately 3.4 million people.

The manufacturing sector, which accounts for almost 10 per cent of GDP and employs 13 per cent of the formal sector, is also susceptible to the pangs of climate variability. According to Kenya’s Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), the sector will be affected due to energy fluctuations arising from lower annual rainfall and severe droughts, lowering power production.

As the impacts of climate change unfold, politicians should now pay more attention to it as it is intertwined with the social and economic development. They should now commit to implementing policies, allocating resources, and taking necessary actions to address it.

Addressing the social and economic dimensions of climate variability will create more opportunities and increase the adaptive capacities of communities.

Dorothy Pamella, Kisumu


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